September 2016 Bar Bulletin
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September 2016 Bar Bulletin

Technology Fellowship Targets Access to Justice

 

A national fellowship opportunity is being designed by a group of law students at Seattle University School of Law to provide practical experience and education in legal technology that is not widely taught in law schools.

The ATJ Tech Fellows Program is the brainchild of Miguel Willis, a third-year Seattle University law student. “I created this fellowship program,” Willis said, “because there is a void in the training and experiences law students receive around the use of technology.” Willis believes creating more technically competent lawyers is part of the solution to the growing access to justice gap.

More than 20 percent of the U.S. population is now at or below the poverty line required for free legal aid,1 yet overstretched legal aid resources are not meeting the majority of their needs. ATJ Tech Fellows will be placed within legal aid organizations to help develop technologies necessary to provide more efficient and cost-effective legal services to poor or self-represented litigants.

Launching in 2017, the 10-week program will allow law students to observe firsthand the physical, psychological and linguistic barriers faced each day by those trying to access the legal system. Fellows will be immersed in a variety of experiences and assignments, including drafting plain-language legal forms, online legal triage systems, legal expert systems, process mapping and improvement techniques, automated document assembly, and technology-
assisted document review.

Fellows will be connected in a virtual cohort during the program, while receiving webinar trainings and mentorship. Each fellow will receive a $5,000 stipend to help defray the living expenses of the 400-hour summer commitment.

Applications for the fellowship program will open in December. The goal, says Willis, is for ATJ Tech Fellows to gain access to the organizations and professionals creating new access-to-
justice applications and then become agile legal innovators themselves, ready to contribute to the changing landscape of technology and legal service delivery. The Northwest Justice Project, Alaska Legal Services Corp. and New Mexico Legal Aid recently partnered with the fellowship program to serve as host organizations for the fellows.

For more information, visit www.atjtechfellows.org. Follow the ATJ Tech Fellows program on Twitter (https://twitter.com/atjtechfellows) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/atjtechfellows/).

1 http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/publication-1/civil-legal-aid-in-the-united-states-3.pdf

 

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